From the day we arrived, there have been kids gathered at our fence from sun up (5 am) to way past sun down. At first, they just gawked at us and made us feel a little uncomfortable. They would yell things that we didn't understand through our open windows when we would go inside, but run away when we'd come out to try and talk to them. We had to keep our curtains closed to get any privacy which really didn't help much since the windows had to be open to let in the cool air. We could still hear them, and they could still hear us.
Once Jessica made friends with us, the others slowly became less shy. They still gather at our gate each morning, but not to stare at us. Now they tell us "hello" on their way to school. They stop back by on their way home for lunch to make sure we will be waiting to play with them after school. If we aren't home when they get out of school, they wait for us to return always questioning where we have been. After a few weeks, of answering them with "at a bible study" or "at our friend's house praying" or "at a prayer meeting," they finally said, "Hey, we want to go to a bible study. Can you have one for us?" And that was when they captured my heart! And the moment when I knew exactly why God had sent us to Avinca Village. Their first official children's bible study will be next week! Please pray for us as we prepare and discern where God wants to begin. (To help us purchase supplies for this new ministry, click here and type "Avinca Children's Ministry" in the comment box,)
Our afternoons, evenings, and weekends are usually spent playing with all the kids in the neighborhood---from the littlest ones to the teenagers. Our house has become the neighborhood hang out. We have learned to play many of their games and have taught them some of ours. Everyone loves to play "Duck, duck, goose" which has become "Duke, Duke, Ghost" with their accents. Even the "too cool" boys joined us for a game one afternoon!
The older ones love to play "1, 2, 3 Red Light" and "Simon Says." But the all time favorite game of is "Oh No" aka "UNO"! They are constantly calling through the gate, "Auntie Melissa, UNO now?" The games are intense, and they love playing skip, reverse, and draw cards. "Sorry po" (a respectful way to apologize to an adult) always accompanies a draw 2 or draw 4 card. And "Bye, Bye, skip you" followed by much laughter can be heard as they play a skip or reverse card. But my favorite is when they yell, "OH NO!" when they only have one card left!
One of the things that I love most is the simplicity of the kids and the games here. The kids are happy to just roll an old bicycle tire down the street and chase it. They don't need to have the newest sporting equipment. They are happy to play street basketball on a very old basketball rim with a warped basketball. They really love to play with "Big Baka." (That would be "Big Cow" which is what they call Travis either because he makes "mooing" sounds out our window when they gather at our gate or because he's so much bigger than most men here. Either way they LOVE when he comes out to play with them!)
We don't have to have a big screen TV or surround sound. They don't mind gathering around our little laptop to watch a bible cartoon on Saturday mornings which they can barely hear and understand. They actually greet us very early on Saturday mornings to find out when they can come over to watch the next one!
We don't need to have expensive outdoor toys to play on. They can spend hours playing with my bamboo clothesline "holder-upper stick". (Email me if you don't know what that is. lol) They began with the limbo and then made up several new games to use the stick for and then decided it would make great monkey bars!
Yes, once again they stole my heart with the messages in their drawings which showed that they loved us just as much as we have grown to love them in these short two months.
This past Sunday evening about 20 of them showed up at our gate in the rain wearing their best outfits asking if they could come with us to Mass. Again, my heart melted, so, 30+ of us marched down the flooded streets of our neighborhood to the church during a torrential downpour!
And after Mass, the only sounds that could be heard over the pouring rain was laughter and squeals of joy as we all ran splashing through the sometimes knee deep water on the dark streets of our neighborhood! People kept looking out of their windows to see who was crazy enough to be out in the dark, flooded streets. Yep, it was those crazy Americanos and their herd of followers!
All I could think about that night as I went to bed was how much I've changed since I've been here. Never would I have trampled in knee deep water with 30 kids in the dark by myself (Travis was helping rebuild a church on a different island). I would not have laughed as my kids ran through the muddy water splashing and ruining their "good" Sunday church clothes and shoes.
Never would I have known what true happiness was if I hadn't moved to the other side of the world and met these precious kids who have taught me so much in just a short amount of time! Here are some of the faces of the kids who stole my heart....